Obsessions and uncertainty in lockdown

Some of the things I have been obsessing over during lockdown:

  • Getting some rats
  • The health and wellbeing of my rats
  • Getting a vegetable box subscription set up
  • Where my partner and I will live when our contract is up

I have been endlessly searching for vegetable box suppliers that had stock and were able to deliver. I keep watching my rats, thinking I am doing a bad job as their host. I scroll through property listings even though we aren’t allowed to go to viewings. I think pre-covid, I wouldn’t have spent so much time on these tasks. I think I would have more easily thought of what I could actually do about them now and then put them to one side. So what has been going on for me? 

I think that probably, this kind of busy energy was in some way to deal with the uncertainty around me. I think everyone has experienced those parts of your days where you read a lot of news and social media posts and can start to feel pretty overwhelmed. Whilst I think it is important to stay in contact with loved ones, the number of WhatsApp groups, house party requests and zoom calls has really ramped up for a lot of people I have spoken to and that can also feel pretty overwhelming. At the end of the day, we don’t know how long lockdown will last and we don’t know the impact of this pandemic. Sometimes it is only possible to feel panicked by that. 

A few weeks ago, I read a tweet by Steve Chapman (who I first met for an interview at the end of last year). He pointed out that the reason people might be finding that “..panic is arising not because of a sense of losing control but the realisation that control was always an illusion”. What do you think when you read that? 

Since reading that tweet, I have had a couple of conversations with Steve and my colleague Gita Goldman. We have talked about the things we have been noticing in ourselves. Steve has shared quite a bit about how clear it is that wealth is not about cash. Gita has shared some of the difficult decisions she has met, deciding which parts of her family to be near before flights were stopped. Steve and I both noticed a relief when we deleted all of the (often money-producing) events out of our calendars as it became clear they wouldn’t be taking place. I know I am a bit nervous about my calendar filling back up again. I think we all want to take from this period something we have learnt rather than reverting back to some of the patterns we were in. Do I want to live somewhere else? Do I want to spend my time differently? Do I want to work in a different way? 

I notice that when I speak and write about these kinds of reflections, I feel a kind of (probably unhelpful) guilt. Guilt for being able to learn from this experience when other people are just surviving. Guilt that I am actually enjoying some parts of it when other people are there risking their lives and many people are dying. When I have caught up with friends, family and coworkers, I notice we often share how we are dealing with everything and we then add on “Of course, it is worse for other people, at least I have food/ financial security/ space, etc.” I have noticed how when I speak to people who have children, I think I shouldn’t share things I am struggling with as, whatever is going on for me, they have more of a ‘right’ to the struggle.

What would be different if we could be awake to the privileges we hold as well as the things that we are struggling with? What could be different if we could sit more with the awareness of uncertainty without trying to counteract it?

Thanks to Gita and Steve for the conversations and Steve for the art! For more, click here to go to his instagram or here for his website.